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2012 Media Releases

University of Denver professor wins prestigious prize for improving world order

November 28, 2012—Erica Chenoweth, an assistant professor at the University of Denver's Josef Korbel School of International Studies, and Maria Stephan, a lead foreign affairs officer with the U.S. State Department, have won the 2013 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order.

They earned the $100,000 prize for the ideas set forth in their book, "Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Non-Violent Conflict" (Columbia University Press 2011). Chenoweth and Stephan collected and analyzed data on all known uprisings between 1900 and 2006 involving more than 1,000 people that related to a country's secession, overthrow of a dictatorship or removal of a foreign occupation. They learned that the non-violent campaigns succeeded twice as often as the violent ones—even in the face of brutal repression.

They also found that the governments of countries where the peaceful resistance took place were far more likely to become or remain stable democracies afterward.

In the non-violent campaigns they studied, unarmed civilians used a mix of strikes, boycotts, protests and demonstrations, while bombings, assassinations and armed attacks were predominant among the violent movements.

"The implications of their work are enormous," said Grawemeyer award director Charles Ziegler. "Not only do their findings validate the work done by Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., but they shed new light on the political change we're seeing today, such as the Arab Spring process in Egypt and other Middle Eastern nations."

The book by Chenoweth and Stephan also won the 2012 Woodrow Wilson Foundation Award for best book published in the United States on government, politics or international affairs.

The University of Louisville presents four Grawemeyer Awards each year for outstanding works in music composition, world order, psychology and education. The university and Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary jointly give a fifth award in religion.

H. Charles Grawemeyer, industrialist, entrepreneur, astute investor and philanthropist, created the lucrative Grawemeyer Awards at the University of Louisville in 1984 to help make the world a better place. An initial endowment of $9 million funded the awards, which have drawn nominations from around the world.

"It is a tremendous honor to receive the Grawemeyer Award," said Chenoweth. "The award is really a testament to people all over the world who choose to fight oppression using nonviolent means. I am so grateful that this idea resonates. And it is deeply humbling to be included alongside prior Grawemeyer recipients, given that so many of them have inspired my own work."